Doorstop Geelong VIC

The Hon Sarah Henderson MP, Assistant Minister for Social Services, Housing and Disability Services: Well good morning everyone. This is an incredible day for Geelong for Corangamite and for the entire south west of Victoria. It's wonderful to have the Prime Minister here, of course Josh Frydenberg, Dan Tehan, Alan Tudge, all together announcing this incredible investment for fast rail, something that I've advocated for a very long time. Prime Minister, I am absolutely thrilled, this is game-changing investment. What this demonstrates is that we're getting on with business, getting things done. I'd now like to welcome the Prime Minister to make the formal announcement.

Prime Minister: Well thanks very much Sarah and congratulations to you. You've been a champion for your community every single day, for important infrastructure projects all over this wonderful part of Australia. Today we're announcing $2 billion dollars for faster rail to connect Geelong to Melbourne. Now this project is part of a broader population plan that I announced this week together with Alan Tudge, to ensure that we're planning for Australia's future population growth.

These are the big challenges we're facing as a country. What comes with growth is the need to plan for growth and to build for that growth. That is what we're doing right here with this project. Part of our population plan is not only to get the migration settings right, not only getting the planning right working with state and local governments and not only investing in social cohesion projects that build the social fabric of our society to make sure that as we grow we grow together and we don't grow apart; the key to all of this is ensuring we have the infrastructure projects, which as Sarah said, are game-changing. They make choices available to Australians that they currently don't have. The opportunity for a half hour rail trip between Geelong and Melbourne will change not only did not Geelong and Corangamite, but it will also change Melbourne. Because it will provide the opportunity for satellite cities to take the pressure off those who are living in Melbourne and at the same time open up new opportunities for those who are living in these rapidly-growing parts of south eastern Victoria and southern Victoria.

So this is part of a bigger plan today, as Alan will talk more about. We're also putting in place a series of further business cases into other fast rail projects, to demonstrate that this is part of a broader initiative. This isn't just one rail project in one part of Victoria. This is part of a plan to manage our population growth into the future.

Now we have a plan for doing that. We have a plan that embraces all the things you need to do to get on top of the pressures that Australians are feeling in our big cities. I want Australians to get home on time and safely, to spend time with their families. I want tradies to be able to get on site on time and be able to earn on site, because they don't get stuck in traffic jams. I want those who live in places like Geelong to be able to have a reasonable commute, to ensure that they can get home on time and they can get to work without having to get up well before dawn.

So this is going to make real choices available to people here in Geelong and Corangamite. It's going to make real choices for people available on the Gold Coast, real choice available to those living south of Sydney in Wollongong. We already have also projects underway and being assessed as business cases, up to Newcastle. This is how we manage the growth of our cities into the future and that's how we can seize the opportunities for Australians all around the country.

The Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, Treasurer: Well thanks, PM, thanks for your leadership in supporting this visionary project. It's great to be here with Sarah Henderson, nobody works harder in the Parliament for her local community than Sarah. So congratulations to you and Alan, you've shown enormous hard work, dedication and vision for the work that we're now seeing in this congestion-busting infrastructure. And Dan Tehan who is a great local advocate for his community, but also for state-wide and nationwide infrastructure. Well, as a proud and passionate Victorian, I'm particularly pleased to see the Federal Government invest in this important Victorian infrastructure project. It will create jobs. It will bust congestion and it will unlock the potential of our regions. As the Prime Minister said, it can only be done with a strong economy. Its one of many projects we have throughout the country, with our $75 billion infrastructure plan.  That is only possible through a strong economy.  So thank you Prime Minister, thank you colleagues. This is a great Victorian project and this will be great for the workers, their families and the businesses of Victoria.

The Hon Alan Tudge MP, Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population: Thanks PM and colleagues. This project will change Melbourne and Geelong forever. I'd like to take you through just some of the specifics in relation to this $2 billion investment and how it fits in with the broader fast rail plan.

The $2 billion investments will allow the construction of fast rail from Melbourne to Geelong, which presently takes about 60 minutes. But it's a heavily congested rail route and particularly through Wyndham, Tarneit and through to Sunshine. Once completed it will enable a 30 minute journey. So that means if you're going to the footy, like tonight for the big game, you could get there in half an hour rather than battling the traffic on the freeway.

Now most of the money would be spent duplicating the rail from Sunshine through to Wyndham Vale, a dedicated line for this. Then it would connect up to the existing line, but a further couple of billion would be required in order to upgrade that, for better signalling, better railway stations and other things. So we estimate it will cost in the vicinity of $4 billion dollars all up, that’s the expert estimate from our federal department. As the Prime Minister said, this is the first cab off the rank for fast rail. Over the next couple of decades, we have to have fast rail which connects up from our orbital cities to our large capitals of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane particularly. This is part of our population plan, because when you connect up those orbital cities with fast rail, it means you take the pressure off the big cities and enable further growth in those orbital cities surrounding those big capitals.

That's exactly what our medium and longer term plan is designed to do. Now to achieve that, we're putting in place the architecture right now. That includes setting up a fast rail agency which will be able to provide ongoing advice and assessments. We're also investigating and putting $40 million into five additional business cases for five additional corridors. Now that includes two additional ones right here in Victoria, down to Traralgon and also up to Wodonga. Those business cases will take approximately 18 months to complete and following the completion of the business cases, we are then in a position to be able to determine what our next priorities should be.

So it's not just this project, but it's a comprehensive fast rail plan which of course it sits as part of our broader population plan. I just conclude by also thanking you Sarah for her advocacy, particularly of this particular rail link. She has been advocating for this for as long as I can remember Sarah. It is a great day for Geelong for the people here, but it's also a great day for Melburnians as well, because projects like this work in concert with how other migration settings and other settings to take that pressure off Melbourne, to enable the growth of the regional cities such as Geelong. In doing so, you help Melbourne, you help Geelong and you help Australia.

Prime Minister: Okay happy to take questions, but I do want to say just before that, this is a project that has also been highlighted and a lot of work is being done by the State Government here in Victoria. In the same way that over the past year, we've been able to work together to get to the heads of agreement on the Melbourne Airport Rail Link, this is a project that Dan Andrews and I have discussed in our meetings in the past. I know it has been a priority and they've done a lot of work on this project and it's that work that is being done by the State Government that enables us, I think, to come together. Now the details have obviously got to be worked through, that's no different, just as it was with the Melbourne Airport Rail Link, to determine the preferred route and things like that.

So I look forward to working with Dan Andrews on this and we worked well together when it came to the Melbourne Airport Rail Link. These two projects connect up together as we said at Sunshine Station where I stood with the Premier just over a week or so ago. So we look forward to working with them and learning from the work that they've already done. I think it'll be a great project. Two governments, yes, from different political persuasions, but able to just get on and deliver things for people in Victoria.

Journalist: What sort of monetary commitment do you require from Victoria?

Prime Minister: It's a 50/50 project.

Journalist: And they’ve agreed to that?

Prime Minister: Well this is the discussion we now have. It’s the same arrangement we were able to come to on the Melbourne Airport Rail Link, so this is something they've already been doing planning on. They have already put I think around $50 million into doing that work, so I don't think they'd be doing that if they weren't anticipating making major investments in this area, of that order.

Journalist: How different is this to Matthew Guy’s promise last October, it's very similar?

Prime Minister: What this is, as I said, is part of a national population management plan. That's what this is about. This isn’t just one-off projects, this is a project that is part of many other projects and a plan to manage population growth into the future, that understands to take the pressure off our fast-growing cities, you need be able to improve your links with your satellite cities around the country. Whether it's here with Melbourne linking up to Geelong or in Sydney connecting up to Newcastle, or connecting up to Wollongong or even out west or it's in Brisbane connecting up to the Sunshine Coast or down to the Gold Coast. These are the areas, in those three major cities in Australia, where there is real population pressure, which is putting strains on people's quality of life. You've got to have a plan to deal with all of that; your migration settings; the investments in the social fabric of your community so they grow together, not apart; the planning alignment between state and local governments and the Commonwealth Government which I put in place last year in December. We went to COAG and had great support from all the Premiers, including Dan Andrews here in Victoria and of course Gladys Berejiklian in New South Wales, where our coordinated planning in that state has been delivering record infrastructure investments, which I think, has commended her Government to re-election tomorrow. Just getting on with it and building the infrastructure my home state and her state needs. But we're doing the same thing here in Victoria and we'll work closely with the Andrews Government.

Journalist: Is $4 billion enough to actually do this though?

Prime Minister: That's what business cases are for. That's our understanding at the moment and if the costs are greater than that, then we'll have to address that at the time. But you don't get these things started, the train never leaves the station unless people get on board and it starts moving. That's what we're doing here today; $2 billion of serious investment, a business case to be developed, working closely with the State Government. That's what makes these things happen. This is where these projects genuinely start. They start right here, right now, by making these commitments and then getting on with it.

Journalist: [Inaudible] cost nearly $4 billion and is at capacity already. It's actually slower to get from Geelong to Melbourne now than it was even 50 years ago. Surely it's going to cost a lot more?

Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population: These were the estimates from our experts in the Federal Infrastructure Department. It involves in essence three components, one from Southern Cross Station to Sunshine Station and that is being upgraded as part of the $10 billion commitment to the to the Airport Rail. So that's the first piece. The second piece is from Sunshine Station to Wyndham Vale. That would be a duplication of that rail line there and that costs, the experts in the Infrastructure Department say, about $2 billion. Then the remaining amount of money would be for the rest of the rail line which is utilizing the existing rail line, but it needs to be upgraded to be able to go faster. You need better traffic signalling, you probably need some upgrading to the stations as well. So that's the estimate from our experts in Canberra. They do estimates right across Australia on these types of things, but as the Prime Minister says, the detailed business case will provide further information. That will be coming to a conclusion soon. The State Government has got $50 million towards that and we want to be able to see what that says as well, in order to determine what the final cost will be.

Journalist: [Inaudible]? 

Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population: So that's the estimate for all of the upgrades, right? So it's going to be as I said, additional tracks from Sunshine through to Wyndham Vale and then upgrading the line, including traffic signalling and looking at some of those things as well.

Journalist: That’s not clear, is that a yes or a no?

Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population: It basically enables the project to be done so that you get an average speed of 160 kmph. That's what the estimates are based on. It means that you're going faster in some locations, up to 200 kmph and then obviously slowing down if you're stopping at a particular station. But I would expect there would be some express routes as well.

Prime Minister: What we're doing today is starting the process with serious money down. There will be many decisions that will have to be taken on the detailed planning of this route. When we announced the Melbourne Airport Rail Link about this time last year in fact, before the last Budget, with real money, we said we had to go through the process, working with the State Government, to identify the preferred route and all of these technical questions. Now that's the work that now needs to happen. You know, you can't get a fast rail at the drive through, I mean this is not a fast food process we're engaged in here, this is one of the most significant regional rail infrastructure projects that Victoria has seen.

So we will do the homework with the State and Territory governments. We will do the consultation with communities and we will deliver the project together. I understand, there will be many, many questions and they'll have to be resolved through that process. That's why you start a process. That's why you answer those questions in consultation with the community and the partners in the project. Then you get on and get the job done.

Journalist: [Inaudible] funding, how soon could we see this happen, if that has still all got to be done?

Prime Minister: Well if we have a good run and everybody can work well together - I mean Alan was saying yesterday that we could be at the start of construction within a couple of years, if not sooner. But that really depends on how the process unfolds. You've got to commit to the process to get the right answers. This is a piece of infrastructure that will be benefiting people in Victoria both in Melbourne and here in Geelong and Corangamite for decades to come. So you want to get the planning right. You want to get it right, you've got to be considered about it and you don't want to rush a start at the risk of actually compromising the usefulness and effectiveness of the project for the longer term.

Journalist:  Does this commitment include money for new rolling stock? 

Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population: The estimate of the $4 billion is for the construction of the rail and obviously the rolling stock is the responsibility of state governments.

Assistant Minister for Social Services, Housing and Disability Services: This is a great celebration for Geelong and a great celebration for Corangamite.

Prime Minister: And we will work with all good-natured people to get the project done.

Journalist:  The Opposition and the State Labor Government may not have known about this in time to be here?

Prime Minister: Well I gave a heads up to Dan last night. This is a long process and we have discussed this project before. So what we're doing today is announcing our intention to commit to this project, $2 billion. Then, if further investment is required after business cases, that will be considered at that time. We're starting a process here I look forward to working with Dan Andrews and the State Government to be able to take this project forward. I believe they're committed to it. They wouldn't have put $50 million into a feasibility study if they weren't. Just like we've been able to demonstrate on the Melbourne Airport Rail Link, our governments can work together and we'll continue to work together.

Yesterday I was out at Racecourse Road in Pakenham and there, we have a project where the State Government is building the flyover and we're widening the road. That's an example, another one, of just the simple planning and cooperation that exists between the State Government here in Victoria and my Government at a national level. That's what people expect. They expect us to work together. They don't expect, you know, people to be turning up and shouting behind announcements like this.

[Unionists shouting]

Well, there they go again, right on cue. That's not what Australians want, they want Australians to work together to deliver important projects like this.

Journalists: Minister just on the fast rail, how frequently would you like to see these trains run?

Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population: That will be determined by the business case process, but there is enormous demand already as you probably know. So when the existing trains go from Geelong all the way through to the city at the moment, often the people at Wyndham Vale and Tarneit can't get on because they’re already full. That is by the time you get to the edge of the city, they're into densely suburban area and that area of course is growing. So we will need frequent services. I imagine there will be express services as well as some services which will have some stops at some of the larger stations along the way.

Journalist: Wyndham Vale and Tarneit is that where they would stop?

Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population: That will have to be determined but I can envisage, as I said, you'd have some express services but also some stops along some of the major stations. Perhaps at Wyndham Vale, perhaps at Tarneit and perhaps at Sunshine.

Treasurer: I just want to reinforce, to re-emphasise that as the PM said, this is real money for a real project that will be in our Budget to be delivered on April 2. This is a federal commitment for a vital Victorian infrastructure project, this is $2 billion in the federal Budget for this project to become a reality.

Prime Minister: On that note Josh has to get back to delivering that Budget. It's going to be the first surplus budget in 12 years, Josh great work. This will be a significant part of the announcements on Budget night as part of our plan going forward. I've also got an important job to do today, I've got to get back there and vote for Gladys Berejiklian back in New South Wales and I'm looking forward to doing that.

Thank you very much.